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Eye On Boise

Megaloads on Highway 12: One per night or three? ITD now says two…

Here's another oddity in the megaloads case: Throughout the contested-case hearing on the proposed 200-plus Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil megaloads, there's been confusion as to whether the proposal calls for just one megaload to be on the road in Idaho on any one night, or three. The company's plan calls for a staged approach in which no single location along the route would be passed by more than one load on any night, with three stages; and says one load could leave Lewiston per night and take three nights to travel to Montana, suggesting there could be up to three on the road at any time.

The Idaho State Police testified that they don't have the staff to assign escorting officers to three loads per night, and were anticipating one per night. The opponents of the megaloads called their own traffic engineer to testify, Pat Dobie of Boise, and he said if there are three loads on the road each night, the traffic impacts would triple; while if there's just one, "it's going to take over 600 days to move them ... and this is a condition that's going to go on for multiple years."

An information request to the Idaho Transportation Department last week yielded this result: "The Transportation Department will allow two individual shipments per night," said ITD spokesman Adam Rush in an email. That's regardless of which company they're from, he noted; last week, there were two on the road at once, the third ConocoPhillips megaload bound for that company's Billings, Mont. refinery; and the ExxonMobil "test validation module" for its loads.

Laird Lucas of Advocates for the West, attorney for megaload opponents, said their interpretation of the traffic control plan is that it "allows three to be out there, because it does say one can leave per night from Lewiston. ... So if they're saying now it's only two, I think that's a change."

Pius Rolheiser, spokesman for Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil, said his company's transportation plan envisions a "maximum one module per night, per stage." That would be up to three on the full, three-stage route. Asked about ITD now saying it has a limit of two, Rolheiser said, "I don't know exactly what ITD said."

The contested-case hearing continues Wednesday, which is expected to be the last day of testimony.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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